A government inquiry completed in November last year into allegations of anomalies in the implementation of several rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) projects in Umlyngka brought up by RTI activists has authenticated the exposé published by Highland Post last October.
The government report found anomalies galore but failed to fix responsibility for the grassroots schemes going awry. In fact, the inquiry report further exposed that funds were diverted without authorization from one scheme to another for which a report was sought from the Block Development Officer, T Passah, and the Block Program Officer.
The report also said that all job card applicants should be given job cards within 15 days but, so far, many in Umlyngka say they have yet to receive them even two months on.
The inquiry report, signed by the team leader, Joint Mission Director (JMD), State Rural Employment Society, Iaraphunlin Diengdoh, said that based on the findings, the Mylliem “Block may be advised to check and rectify the plans and estimates of all ongoing projects before completing the remaining portions” and has called for a for a report from the Block Development Officer.
It was pointed out by local residents of Umlyngka, however, that the office of the BDO did not stop to check the status of the controversial schemes despite being advised by the JMD to do so. The block office seems to have ignored the JMD advice and allowed the Village Employment Council (VEC) to carry on its questionable activities even before rectifying the plans and estimates that were found to be inadequate.
The report found that, as was raised by the complainant, Doria Shabong, completion certificates were given to the projects even though they were yet to be completed. The three schemes against which complaints were made are the unfinished construction of a large drain from Kynton to Dongmawria, sanctioned without measurements at Rs 57.09 lakh; incomplete construction of footpath with length of 750 metres from Mawsyiem to Umiam River; and a project that appears only on paper, namely a washing place and well at Mawsyiem at Rs 12.27 lakh.
The inquiry report said that the washing place and well at Mawsyiem was found incomplete as reported by the RTI activist.
“For the amount released, the project was not executed as per the approved plans and estimates but was diverted to a different project, i.e. for the construction of a motorable road,” the report said.
This is an entirely different project. The explanation given by the implementer of the project, Stephan Lyngdoh, who is also the Chairman of the VEC for failure to complete the project, was that a dispute had arisen with the neighbouring Nongkseh village. The inquiry report said that diversion of funds is not permitted under any circumstances.
It also found that “construction of footpath from Mawsyiem to Umiam has been given completion status although a few stretches of the footpath are still only at the earthwork stage.” It further says that the “plans and estimates prepared do not have any provision for head load, there was no deduction of 10 percent contractors’ benefit and the project management cost (PMC) was booked over and above the project cost, which should have been included in the total project cost. The footpath itself exceeded the plan estimates, which all go to show that the implementers and the block office authorities were not up to the mark.
Similarly, the JMD inquiry report points out that the Rs 57.09 lakh drain “has been given completion status although the work is not completed. The financial status also shows that the payment and person days have not been completed as per estimates, though the technical report shows 75 percent physical completion and 97 percent financial progress.”
However, the JMD rejected the charge that there were instances of two members of the same family receiving MGNREGS job cards. The report said that the persons named in the original complaint were the only job card holders in their households and had only received 12 days’ work in the last two years.
This, though, does not reflect the ground reality as far as receiving work is concerned, as the records of money transferred to their accounts show that between April 19, 2017 and January 90, 2018 both had individually received an amount of Rs 8,660 each as wages for a total of 47 days work. Also, in 2020, they got 27 days of work for which they have received payment for 12 days only.
Even though Passah affirmed that the Umlyngka VEC was performing well and claimed that it had achieved 100 person days per household during 2016-2019, the JMD’s inquiry report said that the VEC failed to maintain proper case reports for the partially completed projects and had not verified all the job cards. The VEC also had too many projects on hand – in 2017-18 alone it had 56 new works and asked that ‘mates’ be identified to monitor and ensure that the assets are being created properly. None of the schemes have the mandatory information boards.
Notably the JMD enquiry report was surprised that the social audit, which was conducted by the Social Audit Unit, gave a clean chit to these three projects.